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338                              THE GAY GENIUS

thought he had "drunk too much cold water"; the probability is that
he had been drinking water from the river. The next morning he felt
extremely weak and tired and stopped taking food. Being a doctor him-
self, he ordered a Chinese medicine, yellow vetch soup, and felt much
better. The yellow vetch, huangchi, is believed by Chinese doctors to be
a great body-builder, enriching the blood and strengthening the con-
stitution generally. It is a general tonic, good for cases of debility, rather/
than a medicine for specific diseases. Modern study still has to be made
of this herb, for many contemporary Chinese have profited from drink-
ing bowlfuls of this soup day after day.

However, his digestive system was out of order and he could not
sleep at night. The great painter Mi Fei came to see him many times,
and when he was well enough, they even made trips together to visit
the Eastern Garden. The nine notes he wrote to Mi Fei at Yichen show
quite plainly the course of the illness. Once he wrote: "I could not sleep'
all night, and sat up providing food for the mosquitoes swarming
around me. I don't know how I am going to get through tonight."
Mi Fei sent him a medicine, black leek soup. Su Tungpo had always
regarded Mi Fei as a junior and the latter had always looked up to him.
Now, after reading a descriptive poem by Mi, he predicted that the
younger painter's reputation was secure, and expressed the regret that
he had not come to know him better in their twenty years of friendship.
Some days Su felt better and on others he felt weak and exhausted. His
life was being destroyed, not by the Emperor or Chang Chun, but
possibly by amoebas. The place was so oppressive with the tepid
atmosphere of the river-bank and he ordered his boat moved to a
cooler place.

On June u he said good-bye to Mi Fei, and on the twelfth he crossed
the Yangtse River and went down to Chinkiang. He was particularly
popular in this region. -Coming back to this district was like coming
home. News had gone abroad that the great poet had returned from
overseas and was arriving. Thousands of people stood on the bank at
Chinkiang to take a look at the famous man. There was general talk
that he might be recalled to assume the reins of the government.

His cousin's grave lay at Chinkiang, and her son, Hung, was in the
city. On June 12, even in his weak health, he went with his three sons
and the nephew to say prayers at the grave of his cousin and her
husband. A second time, he wrote sacrificial prayers to the dead. It is
possible that one was addressed to the husband and the other to the
wife, but this is not quite clear from the text. In the first one, entitled
"The Prayer to Liu Chungyuan", he started by mentioning the wife
first, and then continued: "Besides, my dear Chungyuan, you were a
kind and gentle person and a filial son." The second prayer was more
emotional.